Play Golf Endorsement Ball

By Adam BarrMarch 9, 2001, 5:00 pm
It used to be we could be thankful professional golf was not like professional baseball. But there are some who say we can no longer claim such superiority.
 
Last year, Tiger Woods raised the bar into the clouds on the golf course. Over the past five years, he hasn't just raised the bar for endorsements; he's hung it on the international space station.
 
Remember Tiger's 'Hello World' debut in late August 1996? He signed a deal with Nike then that was said to be worth about $37.5 million over five years, at a time when few, if any, players were getting more than $2 million or $3 million per year from any one source.
 
Before that deal was up but after Tiger had shown beyond any doubt that he is the Real Deal, Nike gave him a five-year contract extension worth a potential $100 million.
 
That tide may float some other yachts, but some high-ranking industry executives see a downside. They fear we may have entered the era of (to use baseball's term) the market adjustment.
 
Take this David Duval-Titleist lawsuit. Duval left Titleist to endorse Nike products, even though he still had three years left in a five-year deal with Titleist. The reason, say sources close to International Management Group, Duval's handlers, was that Titleist reneged on a promise to feature Duval as the premier player on its staff once Woods had departed for Nike.
 
Of course, with the matter in litigation, Charley Moore, Duval's agent at IMG, won't confirm whether there was a clause in Duval's agreement allowing Duval to leave in that situation. But the existence of such an out or a 'marquee player promise,' in whatever form, is said to be a crucial issue in the case.
 
The idea of an escape provision came up in discussions between Titleist and Moore some months after Duval had agreed to his new deal in August 1998, say sources close to the situation. Titleist didn't mind this sort of clause in principle, said a source close to that company. Letters were exchanged on the issue, but Titleist says such a clause never became part of the Duval agreement.
 
But Titleist has claimed in its lawsuit that Duval - or rather his agents - tried to use that 'marquee player' gambit to exit his agreement early because Nike was in the mood to spend lots of endorsement money, and IMG wanted some of it.
 
The courts will decide if that's true, along with a bunch of other claims. (For example, why would Titleist spend $500,000 on a commercial with Duval last October if they weren't planning to make him a top endorser, asked one Titleist exec. IMG sources say there was no Duval-only commercial shoot, and certainly not for that kind of money.)
 
Of course, IMG denies Titleist's allegation. It also won't buy the theory that it was looking for a market adjustment for Duval in light of the money Tiger was getting. IMG sources also deny that the agency was jealous of the deal Titleist made to keep Davis Love III, who had been courted by Nike last year. The parties were characteristically close-mouthed about the numbers, but sources say Love got nearly $50 million for 10 years to stick with Titleist, and Duval was getting about $4.5 million for the first two years of a five-year deal.
 
IMG representatives have said that it's not just about money; it's about relationships. Indeed, sources say that Duval is not getting any more money at Nike than he did at Titleist. And we know he won't be the marquee swoosh-wearer.
 
Any of this sound familiar? A-Rod gets the gross national product of Liechtenstein. Jeter wants his piece, Nomar and Frank Thomas want theirs.and on and on. OK, golf endorsements don't approach the insane magnitude of baseball salaries. But one ranking industry executive has confirmed that since the Duval conflict arose, his company has received letters from players' agents essentially requesting early exits if their clients are not to be used as 'flagship' or 'marquee' players.
 
Agents have to do what's best for their clients. But a deal's a deal, right? That's true whether we're talking about the number of years in it or an escape clause from it.
 
Things have gotten so bad in baseball that some people see it as only slightly trustworthier than post-Watergate government. Many observers first reacted to news of Rodriguez's 10-year, $250 million deal with the quip, 'No way he'll stay for 10 years.' Baseball players are just expected to jump toward opportunity, no matter what the signed paper says.
 
With the parties so circumspect, we can't know for sure what David Duval and Titleist were trying to do. The outcome of their lawsuit will, it is hoped, reveal the parties' intentions. Duval has said that will happen.
 
But what about those other agents who wrote those early-exit-if-my-guy's-not-the-lead-dog letters?
 
If those letters are indeed out there, and if they say what they're purported to say in conflict with an agreement, let's hope they get filed where they deserve to be.
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Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.


Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic


''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

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J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.


Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


"I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

"It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

"It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

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Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

They were at 7-under 135.

Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.


Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.

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Plenty of good – and bad – in Tiger's missed cut

By Rex HoggardFebruary 17, 2018, 3:10 am

LOS ANGELES – Do you want the good news or the bad?

Actually, having any good news to report when it comes to Tiger Woods is something of a sea change after a tumultuous few years for the 14-time major champion both on and off the golf course, so let’s start there.

Right about the time Woods began his round of birdie-bogey bingo on Day 2 at the Genesis Open, news broke that he’d signed to play next week’s Honda Classic.

The annual South Florida PGA Tour stop may be just a short drive from the Woods compound, but his commitment to play PGA National is very much a reason for optimism.

It marks, after all, the first time Woods has played consecutive weeks on Tour since 2015 when he went from the PGA Championship  where he missed the cut  to the Wyndham Championship, site of his last top-10 (T-10) on Tour. Last year, when he attempted to go back-to-back from the Farmers Insurance Open to the Dubai Desert Classic, came to a woeful end when he withdrew after just a single round with an ailing back.

“I'm very pleased. I'm very excited about it,” Woods said as darkness settled Friday over Riviera Country Club. “I wish I would have two more competitive rounds to head into next week, but that's not the case. But I get a chance to do some work and I'll go do some work.”

Throughout this entire process, which began last April when he had fusion surgery on his lower back, Woods has talked of benchmarks and protocols. He has, by all accounts, been a model patient, following doctor’s orders and easing his way back into the competitive fray.

As late as Tuesday, Woods was coy when asked about whether he would play the Honda Classic, figuring it would be a “great” sign if he did play, but adding it would be a “smart” sign if he didn’t.


Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


Although the late Yogi Berra would probably applaud Woods’ misdirection, his point was valid. He’s never been real keen on announcing his schedule in advance, and that’s particularly evident and prudent now that his competitive fortunes are dictated by the whims of his surgically repaired back.

But on Friday as Woods was setting out for his round, he offered the most telling assessment yet that his health, which for so long has left him perched on the edge between continued greatness and competitive irrelevance, is no longer an issue.

“I'm both pleased and also not very happy with some parts of it,” he said. “It's nice to be back competing again and to be able to go out there and play, practice after each round. That's been nice, something I haven't done in years.”

And now the bad.

Woods began the day at Riviera teetering on the cut line at 1 over, played his opening loop in 2 over par to drift further back and closed his day, and week, with a 5-over 76 and a 6-over total to miss the cut by five strokes.

There is no shortage of culprits on this front.

He struggled off the tee. He struggled with his irons. And on Friday he struggled with his short game, which had been the rock his comeback had rested on until now.

He was once again plagued by the wild miss off the tee, hitting just 13 of 28 fairways for two days with a tee ball that offended equally, sailing right four times and left seven. So much for that “stout” new shaft.

But if his tee ball became public enemy No. 1, his iron play may have been worse with Woods finding a pedestrian 16 of 36 greens in regulation. That’s the fewest greens for Tiger through two rounds in a Tour event as a professional.

“I would say he's a pretty good ways away,” figured Justin Thomas, who may need to find another ride home after flying out to Los Angeles on Air Tiger. “He's obviously not driving it well, he's not hitting the shots that he wants to. Probably the distance control isn't quite there.”

Thomas was quick to point out that despite Woods’ struggles he continued to fight like few can, at least on Thursday when he turned what probably should have been a 75 into a 72. On Friday, the magic ran out.

Woods’ abbreviated week in Los Angeles began with a lost ball in a eucalyptus tree and ended with his surprising loss of touch on the greens.

He missed par attempts from 13 (No. 9), 4 1/2 (No. 11), 5 1/2 (No. 12) and 6 1/2 (No. 16) feet on Day 2, the final three miscues marking his first three three-putts of the week. That deft touch that had secured him weekend tee times last month at Torrey Pines and kept his round on Day 1 at the Genesis Open from becoming ugly, had vanished.

“The feeling of not feeling very good over my putts finally caught up with me,” Woods said.

Woods has a few days to think about those feelings, and he’ll spend the weekend fulfilling his host duties at Riviera before heading home for next week’s Honda Classic.

He understood as well as anyone that it was always going to be this way following so many years of false starts and relapses, but the difference now is that there’s some good news to go along with the bad.